AB & T Synod East & West Central Conference Convention

Bethel Lutheran Church

Bethel Lutheran Church

Today our ELCIC, AB & T Synod East & West Central Conference convention was held at Bethel Lutheran Church in Camrose. There were two fine, engaging  presentations made by Rev. Dr. Marc Jerry on “Word & Sacrament Ministry,” based on the ELCIC Study Guide On Word and Sacrament Ministry. 

In trying to ensure that all of our parishes and congregations are served with a ministry of word and sacrament; and with a growing shortage of ordained pastors; our ELCIC is now wrestling with a proposed new practice of licensing a layperson for sacramental ministry at a specific parish or congregation.

At the conclusion of these presentations, there was opportunity for small group discussion on various questions and issues around this proposed new practice.

In our group, among other things, three questions that we discussed were: i) would a lay person in a congregation or parish have the same respect and authority as a pastor by the congregants/parishioners? ii) What about the long-term spinoff consequences of such a practice for our clergy as well as for our seminaries? E.g. would such a practice reduce the number of clergy being ordained and prospective students going into seminary to be trained and prepared for ordained ministry? iii) What would the implications of such a new practice be for ecumenical relations and dialogues-especially with our full communion partner, the Anglican Church of Canada?

The two conferences also spent time apart from each other to carry out their respective business meetings of the conference. In the East Central meeting, there were changes made to bylaws, and resolutions approved.

Of course, there was also time scheduled in for good food and fellowship, meeting, greeting and story sharing with familiar and new folks, as well as a closing Holy Communion Service with the installation of a new dean for the West Central Conference and Council members of both Conferences.

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Alma mater & church convention

From June 19-21, I attended our Alberta & the Territories Synod Convention at Camrose, held on my alma mater-then Camrose Lutheran College, now Augustana campus, University of Alberta. Those who are convention aficionados know that they can range from exciting, surprising and inspiring to boring and divisive and everything in-between. As a seasoned convention attender, I wouldn’t say this was the most exciting one I’ve ever witnessed, nor was it the most boring-rather, it was somewhere in-between. The most upbeat aspects of the convention for yours truly were: i) re-election of our bishop, the Rev Dr. Larry Kochendorfer on the first ballot; ii) the music and worship services; iii) the opportunity to visit with other colleagues and former parishioners whom I hadn’t seen for some time; iv) the keynote speaker, the Rev. Dr. Alan Roxburgh of the Missional Network, addressing, among other things, the new paradigmatic direction of Christendom in terms of what it means to be “missional,” and where God is leading the Church into the future and possible changes needed to be a part of that journey. Below are a some photos I shot of the ever-changing face of my alma mater campus.

New Performing Arts Centre to open this October

New Performing Arts Centre to open this October

Library with the young Luther statue in foreground

Library with the young Luther statue in foreground

The young Luther statue

The young Luther statue

Sign

Sign

Front shot of Luther statue

Front shot of Luther statue

Classroom building

Classroom building

Glen K. Johnson Faith & Life Centre

Glen K. Johnson Faith & Life Centre

Founder's Hall-in my day it was referred to as Old Main

Founder’s Hall-in my day it was referred to as Old Main

A wheelchair accessible elevator tower will be added to one end of Founder’s Hall.

L-R Colleagues: Rev. Ron & Rev. Dr. Gary

L-R Colleagues: Rev. Ron & Rev. Dr. Gary

Both colleagues helped carry some of our books for the book exchange table at the convention.

Colleague Rev. Howard & delegate Phyllis

Colleague Rev. Howard & delegate Phyllis

Re-elected Bishop Larry

Re-elected Bishop Larry

Synod banner

Synod banner

Elements of creation from each of our Synod Conferences

Elements of creation from each of our Synod Conferences

Synod delegates at work in session

Synod delegates at work in session

Another highlight of the convention was the celebration and recognition of those pastors who have served in the church for 25 years, 40 years, 50 years and 60 years. There were 10 clergy celebrating their 25 anniversary of ordination; 7 clergy celebrating their 40 anniversary of ordination; 6 clergy celebrating their 50 anniversary of ordination; and 3 clergy celebrating their 60 anniversary of ordination. I had the opportunity to chat briefly with the Rev. Barry Lyall, who was one of the 60-year clergy. I was amazed at his health and resilience, he told me that he still enjoys serving as a pulpit supply pastor.

 

Brief Musings on the ELCIC National Convention

Brief Musings on the ELCIC National Convention

After almost a week since the closing of our ELCIC national convention at the UBC campus in Vancouver, here’s my brief “take,” pro and con.

As numerous delegates and dignitaries intimated, national conventions of a church body as small as the ELCIC has the atmosphere of a family reunion. And, like family reunions, the upside is that we all get to see each other and catch up on what’s happening in our lives—old friendships are renewed and new friendships are born, this is koinonia at its best, and a taste of the realm of God coming in the present tense. However, sin, the age-old nemesis, is an all too present reality, with sibling rivalry in high gear and devolving into sibling hostility.

As far as the “official” proceedings went, I lament the absence of two old-timer experts on parliamentary etiquette and constitutional expertise—Professor Vincent Eriksson, and the Rev. Dr. Lo Schwabe. I think, had they been present, we may have avoided a whole lot of procedural wrangling and chaos, accomplishing far too much anger, frustration and the overall sense of accomplishing precious little. I don’t think the proceedings helped to heal the distance between alienated clergy and congregations and the national leadership of our denomination—and that is a sobering, sad reality to take away from a convention with a theme of “signs of hope.”

Speaking of hope, and signs of it, I think I walked away renewed in hope vis-à-vis my interactions one-on-one, and in small groupings at coffee breaks and mealtimes than anywhere else. I do have hope for this church on a parish level and in what Luther called the mutual consolation of the brethren (and sisters). Here I think the parables of Jesus on such minute elements as mustard seeds, yeast and salt are instructive—the realm of God is often hard to see, starts out small, but grows almost invisibly all around us. The far away parish in outer gopher gulch Alberta is a sign of the realm of God—we should never forget that, because many, maybe most of our members originally grew up in parishes like that!

A couple of final upside thoughts: First, I loved the opportunity to visit Regent College’s fine bookstore, and made a few purchases. I was quite impressed with the bookstores quality and quantity of inventory. It’s a good place to “get lost” for an afternoon. Second, I did enjoy and appreciate some of the fine music in our daily worship services. Our congregation is “musically challenged,” so the opportunity to sing new hymns, and listen to a choir accompanied by guitar, percussion, keyboards, strings, flute, etc., was a real blessing for yours truly.

ABT 2008 Synod Convention

Alberta & the Territories Synod Convention: June 5-8, 2008

Our church – synod convention is now history. I’d encourage readers to check out the synod blog created by a pastor and an intern reflecting on each day of the convention over here. You can also check out their blogs here and by clicking on Kevin Powell on my blog roll. I appreciate their commentary and add a few observations as well:

  • Many (most) of us lament the reality that we are a divided church. We have not been able to reach a consensus on same-sex blessings, nor are we likely to do so in the foreseeable future. At its roots, this is a very complex issue (For example, are people born homosexuals or are they socialized to become homosexuals or do they turn to homosexuality because they have been sexually abused?) some are tired of it and wished it would go away; while others are still trying to learn more and respond appropriately to it.
  • I thoroughly enjoyed the workshops by Pastor Kevin Powell on blogging and Social Ministry Coordinator Joyce Zutter on Creation Stewardship. Kevin’s blog is well worth the visit not only for his content, but also for ideas on how to improve the quality of one’s blog re. layout and presentation. Joyce’s presentation certainly challenged most of us as to our daily habits and how we either contribute to the ongoing pollution of our planet or become more responsible as caring stewards of creation.
  • I was inspired by the music during the worship services, as our congregation is musically challenged. I love to learn new hymns and liturgies.
  • There was also the fun, stress-relieving event of packing safely as many people into a Smart Car as possible in two minutes to support campus ministry. There was a three way tie, each of the three winning teams packed in nine persons. I was on one of the winning teams! The Good Samaritan Society Team. Thanks to the folks in campus ministry for sponsoring and organising this event. I’m sure it will be a popular one at future conventions.
  • The times of table fellowship, including the banquet, and celebrating the ordination anniversaries of our pastors were also opportunities to affirm “the communion of saints,” (and, of course, the shortcomings of sinners)!
  • Our convention demographics indicate we are an aging synod. Looking at all of the grey heads during our convention sittings confirmed this truth. Where are our younger folks? Next convention I do hope there is a more diverse demographic representation.